Columbus Organization Makes Effort to End Sex Trafficking of Minors
“It starts with drugs. The girls think these guys are their boyfriends, but once the drug supply runs, out they convince the girls to exploit themselves for money for more drugs.”
Often considered an “invisible” crime, minor sex trafficking is happening all over our city. According to the Attorney General, 1,100+ minors are trafficked each year, the average age being 13. One non-profit organization has taken on the challenge of helping the survivors. Gracehaven, working under the leadership umbrella of Youth for Christ, has a goal of assisting every young person who has been trafficked. Scott Arnold, director of both, shared insights into this dark trade and how others can join the mission to stop it.
“The need is real and present in our community,” Arnold explained.
Gracehaven’s strongest presence in our city is the Gracehaven House which can house up to eight minors who have recently been rescued from the traffic lifestyle. Arnold said that the organization operates on referrals from the Empowerment Court and Children Services. Once a child has been removed from the lifestyle and placed in foster care Gracehaven is contacted for recovery services. They work closely with case managers and social workers to provide the survivors with the best tools to reclaim their lives. Along with the house, Gracehaven offers several other resources to the community such as in-school training programs, awareness events, and case management services to survivors living in foster care.
“Young people who have been trafficked also experience significant spiritual emptiness and confusion,” said Arnold. “Gracehaven allows young people to voluntarily opt into Bible Studies and other faith based activities designed to help survivors find hope and answers to their spiritual needs.”
Arnold has seen real life change happen through the various aspects of Gracehaven, and recently celebrated two girls graduating out of their treatment program. Last year, Gracehaven received sixty referrals, and they are working towards capacity to help each referral they receive.
The community can be involved in multiple ways: by participating in awareness events and/or donating various resources to the organization. The biggest involvement need is raising awareness. Most people do not know how the system of sex trafficking works, what the signs of a child being “groomed” for that lifestyle are, or where it takes place. Community awareness will help protect minors from falling into the hands of exploitation and will help to put an end to minor sex trafficking.
For more information on Gracehaven, visit their website www.gracehaven.me.